Claudio Marcus, vice president, strategy for Comcast Advertising, has just joined the board of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM).
While overseeing advanced TV ad strategy at Comcast, Marcus has been actively involved in industry efforts to speed innovation, improve quality and increase competition in the U.S. measurement space. In his previous posts, including general manager of FreeWheel’s Data Platform Group and EVP marketing, research and new initiatives for targeted ad tech firm Visible World (both companies were acquired by Comcast), he gained extensive experience in big data sets for video/TV measurement, including set-top box (STB) and automatic content recognition (ACR) data.
We interviewed Marcus about his thoughts on the complex, rapidly evolving cross-media marketing measurement and currencies scenario, and where CIMM fits in amid the roster of players involved.
How does CIMM define its core purpose
now, in your understanding? Has it changed since it became part of the ARF? Is innovating new media measurement methods still its core mission?
Marcus: CIMM has been through a transformation in its role and remit. When it was founded in the 2000s, it was focused solely on cross-platform TV measurement, working to cultivate innovations and best practices across the industry, including playing a crucial role in supporting the development of new measurement solutions, leveraging STB and Smart TV ACR data.
After CIMM became part of the ARF, it undertook a major review of its role in the industry and has now adopted an expanded mission. Cross-platform measurement methodologies remain a central focus, but it is also working to cultivate and support innovations, improvements and best practices in currency development, metrics and data collaboration. This includes, for example, looking at the future of data collaboration, supporting the transition to a multi-currency marketplace, and examining identity resolution in the TV space.
With all of the cross-media measurement initiatives in play now — including the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) Cross Media Measurement (CMM) initiative and the self-described "Joint Industry Committee" (JIC) launched by the TV networks and the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), in which Comcast’s NBCUniversal is a key participant/leader — where exactly does CIMM fit in? How, specifically, will CIMM interact with these groups?
Marcus: CIMM is a unique body. It’s a pan-industry, nonpartisan, not-for-profit, involving stakeholders from across the entire ecosystem: buyers, sellers, measurement providers, MVPDs, streaming services, programmatic platforms and data companies. All the major industry trade bodies are CIMM members. CIMM is really a combination of a task force and a forum for critical debate to help the industry make progress. We’ve worked with all of the major trade bodies on projects and believe strongly that collaboration is necessary if the industry is going to make real progress.
In January, Deloitte released a report commissioned by CIMM, ANA and the 4As on the transition to a multicurrency national TV market. In it, CIMM’s Managing Director, Jon Watts, states that CIMM’s priority is “supporting the entire ecosystem,” and that the study provided “tremendous clarity” about how best to focus CIMM’s efforts. What did that study reveal about specifically where CIMM should focus its efforts?
Marcus: Markets are structured around transactions between buyers and sellers – and CIMM works to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of markets, cultivating choice and competition, standardization and interoperability. The Deloitte report focused on an industry assessment of the challenges and opportunities associated with measurement of cross-platform TV and video services. The research provided clear evidence of broad-based recognition across buyers and sellers of the need to have media measurement keep up with changes in video media and advertising distribution technologies.
Those changes have led to consumer behaviors resulting in greater audience fragmentation, which inherently makes audience measurement challenging. The multicurrency study also teased out some important differences. Put simply, different parts of the ecosystem have been moving at different speeds. CIMM’s next initiatives in the multi-currency space are likely to focus on supporting the buy side, helping agencies to navigate some of the changes we’re seeing.
The report confirms that most industry players agree on the need for a true, tripartite JIC to sort and reach some kind of consensus on all of the currencies and
divergent agendas in play. Earlier this month, the sell-side-initiated "JIC" released the criteria it intends to require from cross-media
measurement companies to be certified as currencies for ad buying and selling, and the names of the leading agencies, media companies and industry trade groups (no brands, at least as yet) involved in
defining those baseline requirements. What role does CIMM play in all of this?
Marcus: Jon Watts came from the UK, which is home to BARB, one of the most successful JICs in the world. Speaking in the UK in November 2021, he forecast the emergence of JIC-like structures in the U.S. market — and that’s what we’re seeing. The major networks that formed the U.S. JIC are bringing agencies on board to expand support from across the industry. CIMM supports these industry initiatives to achieve the standardization needed to support the evolution of a competitive marketplace, and intends to conduct research efforts that help further inform industry requirements, developments and best practices for cross-platform media and advertising research and application.
How did the study come to the conclusion that there should ultimately be no more than five different currencies? Is that based strictly on study participants’
dominant assessment, or also technical assessments of operational limitations?
Marcus: That was the general consensus from the respondents, but there is no limit on the number of measurement currencies. The ultimate number will likely depend on both the requirements for the suppliers and the market’s willingness to embrace use of multiple measurement currencies. For suppliers, the level of expertise and investment required to support the technical, operational and functional requirements will likely affect the number of companies involved. On the demand side, it will likely come down to the added value associated with having more choice and the relative differentiation across the solutions in terms of alignment in support of specific needs of the various agencies, marketers and publishers.
Given the number of constituencies and agendas, isn’t it likely to take several years to come to a consensus that serves advertisers and is
acceptable to the sell side?
Marcus: Things are clearly moving quickly, but it will take time to deliver improvements, of course. Measurement is a team sport, and it’s hard to be both fast and right. There is broad recognition that time is of the essence, but standing up these new collaborative entities and their related development and operational efforts is complex. That said, the progress being made is encouraging. As it begins to take shape, it will increasingly be up to the industry, including all major agencies, marketers and publishers, as well as the multiple measurement and operational system vendors involved, to scale-related measurement uses and support ongoing innovation in this space.
The ANA has said that its Cross Media
Measurement system ultimately will enable advertisers, agencies and suppliers to choose whatever “currencies” they want to put into its system in order to analyze their true reach and
frequency. Creating such a system sounds like a big order, to say the least, but the ANA recently said it expects it to be operational sometime in 2024. Where/how would a JIC fit in with/interact
with/influence the CMM system’s development?
Marcus: The ANA’s efforts are on an important but narrowly focused deliverable. The aim is to enable basic deduplicated cross-media reach and frequency measurement with the support of major media platforms, including TV, video, search and social. A key challenge related to the implementation of basic CMM reach and frequency measurement has been the recognition that not all impressions deliver the same level of impact, and that it may vary depending on advertiser and campaign objectives.
To move CMM forward, the ANA and VAB have agreed on the introduction of ad exposure metadata as key parameters related to likely impression quality so that agencies, marketers and publishers can better determine what qualifies as a valid impression relative to each specific advertiser and campaign objectives. The JIC is working to support better measurement of TV-like premium content. One of its first priorities is to provide standardized access to data about streaming TV services. The data will be licensed to certified measurement providers. So, the two efforts are mutually supportive.
It would seem fair to ask how potential conflicts of interest will be addressed in forming/running/implementing a JIC. For instance — not by any means to single out any one party or group – OpenAP is closely involved both in the ANA cross-media initiative and NBCU’s currency initiative. Aren’t there potential negatives, as well as positives, to all this cross-pollination?
Marcus: I don’t think so. Again, measurement is a team sport. Collaboration is necessary. That said, the key to avoiding potential negatives is making sure we demand transparency as to who is involved, what data is used and how it is used, and the methodologies involved. That should help inform all interested parties about what, if any, potential biases or conflicts may need to be considered.
What is your response to the argument that media/sell-side-driven currencies are inherently self-serving?
Marcus: Media currencies ultimately require an agreement between the buyer and the seller as to what and how audiences are measured. If they are self-serving, then it makes it less likely that a counterparty will agree to use it. Enabling more competition and choice in measurement will make it more likely that buyers and sellers come to terms on the currencies they will use to transact.
How would you characterize the current status/stage of NBCU’s currencies initiative? Will the NBCUnified first-party data identity platform and NBCU’s One Platform play a role in essentially all of NBCU’s upfront negotiations this year?
Marcus: Comcast Advertising is a separate entity from NBCU, so I would prefer not to speak on their behalf.
How will the existence of multiple currencies – including the introduction of Nielsen One — affect the upfronts dynamic overall? Isn’t there
real potential for confusion that may not ultimately serve advertisers/clients?
Marcus: Change is hard, but given the changes in media and distribution technologies, along with ongoing changes in related consumer behaviors, being complacent is not an option. More competition will ultimately help enhance the pace of innovation and quality of audience measurement. That is worth the short-term disruptions likely to be associated with some of the changes.
Won’t pricing/deals reflect some skepticism from buyers, given that neither NBCU’s or
other self-certified currencies are certified by the Media Rating Council as yet?
Marcus: There is an important role for validation that requirements for currency certification are met. The starting point is on key related requirements, which is now underway across major buyers and sellers, with the involvement and support of the ANA and VAB. That will lead to enabling proper certification of methodologies and implementation.
What do you, personally, see as the top two or three most critical issues/challenges regarding cross-media measurement now, and where the industry should start in terms of addressing these?
Marcus: My perspective is that enabling cross-media measurement to account for increasingly granular audience fragmentation requires first, the use of big data sets and second, a sufficiently large audience calibration panel to help fill in gaps and adjust for biases in big data sets. The industry has never been as engaged as it is now in enabling these key components to come together. There is much work to do, but the foundation is being laid to support the critical changes needed to enhance the pace of innovation, improve quality and increase competition in audience measurement.
To the editorial staff of Media Post: When are you going to stop echoing the lie that the current alt-currency consortium is a JIC or at least add a warning/correction when the term is abused? It is NOT a JIC, nor even close. Jon Watts knows better and Claudio Marcus should know better!
As Karlene astutely hinted, the current consortium reflects conflicts of interest and potential biases driven in part by the misguided Deloitte report.
Disney and other major players are currently not involved. What does The Mouse know? Perhaps that multiple currencies for TV/Video, or any medium, will significantly increase the metrics chaos and confusion thereby failing to serve advertisers and their media agencies and smack of, "What currency would you like, how much money have you got?"
JIC's produce a currency (singular) for the medium they serve based on the detailed specifications and requirements established by the JIC Technical Committee/Board and managed and overseen by the JIC's strictly independent full time staff.